A combat/surveillance system that can save lives abroad and at home- by Dhruva Aliman

This is an idea to improve combat efficiency for our ground forces' operations, as well as provide a solution to the challenge of securing our borders here at home. It is a surveillance/weapons system like the predator with a hellfire. However this system may be more practical and useful in many ways than the Predator or Global Hawk.

First, let's describe the combat implementation of this system, then go into homeland security.

Some time ago, some of our marine snipers in Iraq were setting up on a roof top when, unbeknownst to them, some insurgents took a position on a nearby roof top and before our snipers knew it they were fired upon and shot dead. Not to mention the loss of life, it takes a lot of treasure and time to produce soldiers like these and we should never have to lose assets like that to the kind of enemy we have in Iraq. In situations like these, any type of soldier should be afforded protection from such a lesser fighting force. So here it is.

This is a powerful ground force weapon system that interfaces an individual soldier with an aerial surveillance mechanism like a balloon (or blimp).
Since we have complete air superiority over Iraq, whenever a unit or platoon, etc. goes out on a mission they should be followed by an unmanned surveillance balloon (Some of these balloons can be manned for specific purposes and would be a lot bigger, but for right now let's discuss the unmanned). In the balloon's basket should be at least 3 types of cameras, hi res, full light spectrum, and night vision. There should also be a directional RF jammer and RF link/transmitter for the troops. This is an amount of equipment that a Predator cannot carry but a balloon can. You may recall, during major combat ops., we lost dozens of soldiers when some units tried to take a couple of bridges in Nasiriya. They took a wrong turn, were ambushed and could not communicate their situation and position because some major power towers were interfering. A balloon directly over head could have gotten their signal and relayed it to command. Our own A-10s eventually destroyed our vehicles on the ground. It was a disaster and could have been avoided with this proposed balloon system.

Lets look at the sniper scenario again. As those guys are setting up, an adjunct team member on the ground nearby would have a small lap top type device on his chest. When folded, it is flush with his chest, out of the way. When unfolded, 90 degrees from his torso, the soldier can look down at the screen and have a bird's eye view of the area of operations. He has the ability to zoom in and switch camera modalities to perceive the battlefield in different ways.

Now, lets say he sees that insurgents are collecting on a rooftop for an attack on his snipers. Besides being able to inform our snipers of this, he can take a pen like device and X the spot on the screen where the enemy is. The computer in the system knows exactly where that location is in GPS terms. Then the soldier looks down the touch screen at a series of symbols each delineating a type of ordinance, ie. smoke bomb, explosives, tear gas, etc. On the ground, with the soldier, is a vehicle with a weapons launching system for mortars or artillery or missiles etc. that is part of the system so that the instant our soldier touches, lets say, the explosive mortar symbol, that chosen ordinance is delivered to the enemy within seconds. Also, if he wants to zoom in for a better look at a certain area he can just use the pen and circle the area he wishes to scrutinize and he'll immediately get a close up.

Also, when the soldier draws an X to target an area, the computer can ask the soldier if he wants to target the moving objects in the area of the X or just the area itself. If he wants to, for example, destroy a building or destroy a parked airplane, he can choose "Target Area". However, if the soldier wants to, for example, target moving insurgents in vehicles or on foot that are in the area but may be moving out of the area, then he can choose "Target Movement". Then, the weapon system will follow the targets and continue firing on them until they stop moving.
Also, aerial drones with machine guns and/or missiles can be used as attack mechanisms with this system, in conjunction with the ordinance launcher mechanism on the ground.

Of course, targets are limited to what we can see from above and out in the open. Unless we use microwaves or T-rays to penetrate and perceive aggressors inside of buildings. However, so many ambushes and attacks happen out in the open that this system would be extremely useful. Also the balloon itself should be fitted with with a missile or bomb so that if it picks up a time sensitive target that is out of range from the launcher on the ground then we still have a shot. Fitting the balloon with a weapon like this shouldn't be that difficult because it does not have to be exceptionally aerodynamic like a Predator or Global Hawk. These are slow moving vehicles with a small propulsion systems, just to follow our troops and go where we need them. The idea is to have enough of them that they cover the entire theater of operations. Every branch of the armed services can use them for something, from Coast Guard drug interdiction to disaster relief.

The implications of the use of this system for border security are, I guess pretty obvious. We don't need the offensive part of this system, just the surveillance part. Less than 100 of these could watch the entire U.S.-Mexico Border and inform the border patrol (using GPS) exactly where people are crossing. All the border patrol has to do is intercept. There would be no need for the National Guard, fences, sensors on the ground, minute men, etc. Also, stationary, tethered balloons that stretch extremely high in the sky can observe many miles of border. The cable that connects them to the ground can deliver electric power and even the lighter-than-air-gas to keep them up there for very long periods of time.

Also these balloons can be fitted with airborne pathogen detectors and can be programmed to do regular sweeps over U.S. cities. They can also support NEST operations and help city planners.

The multi-purpose aspect of this system as well as the uniformity production aspect of the balloon design may lend itself to make a good argument that defense budget funds would be wisely applied to the development of this system.

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